Congenital facial deformity begins during early pregnancy

A cleft lip is a split that appears in the lip on one or both sides of the mouth and may extend to the roof of the mouth (palate). This common congenital deformity (birth defect) occurs when lips are forming in the fetus, usually during weeks four to seven of pregnancy. A baby born with a cleft lip or palate may be born with other inherited conditions, or may otherwise be perfectly healthy.

Cleft lip is easily recognizable at birth and is treatable, usually through a series of surgical procedures.

Babies at risk of being born with cleft lip

It is not well understood how the condition is caused other than by some combination of genetic and environmental factors, and there is no known way to prevent it. The risk is higher, however, in Asian, Latino, and Native American babies, and may be more likely if a sibling, parent or relative had it.

The risk may also increase if the mother and unborn baby are exposed to:

  • Viruses
  • Chemicals
  • Certain medications (such as anti-seizure drugs and acne medicine with Accutane)

Aside from the social discomfort and isolation of having a facial deformity, a child with cleft lip or palate may have difficulty eating and speaking, and may also be more prone to ear infections, hearing problems, and even problems with the teeth.

Some congenital deformities such as cleft lip can be diagnosed in utero (while the baby is still in the womb) via ultrasound testing.

To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.